When the Yankees traded for Ichiro Suzuki it seemed like an obvious rental, but after almost three months of impressive performance the Yankees may decide they want him back after all.
It certainly sounds like Ichiro would stay if it were up to him.
A “person close to Ichiro” told Joel Sherman of the NY Post that Ichiro wants to stay with the Yankees because he enjoyed playing with players his age in a professional, winning environment. Supposedly money is not a big factor for Ichiro either as long as the Yankees make a contract offer in the $5-$8 million range.
That’s shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as Ichiro was clearly at ease in the Bronx after he asked to be traded out of Seattle because he didn’t fit in with the younger players on their roster.
The Yankees haven’t let on yet as to their intentions regarding Ichiro. They probably didn’t imagine bringing him back when they traded for him either, but hitting .322 over a couple of months tends to change things. Now the company line is that they will decide to bring him back when the front office meets to come up with an offseason plan.
The biggest trouble with bringing Ichiro back is that the outfield may be a little weak pairing him with Brett Gardner after losing Nick Swisher. But as Joe Girardi recently pointed out, the Yankees get power from second, center, and catcher, three positions that don’t typically pack a lot of punch, so carrying a couple of weak hitting corner outfielders may not be a deal breaker.
This may come down to money and opportunity though. There are a few options on the free agent market available and the Yankees may choose to go with one of them with Ichiro as a fall back. As they try to lower payroll to $189 million by 2014 it may make it hard for them to land one of their primary options and then turn to Ichiro as a result. Even then they have to decide if paying him even $5-$8 million isn’t an overpay.
My guess is that the Yankees may decide that they do want to re-sign Ichiro, but that they will wait until after the Winter Meetings in December. By that time they’ll have a better idea of what the rest of the market will look like and they’ll have time to test the trade market a bit first. If by Christmas a more obvious target hasn’t emerged they’ll probably turn their attention toward Ichiro.
If Ichiro is especially inclined to stay with the Yankees it could be possible he signs a small say $4 million deal right away similar to what Freddy Garcia did a year ago. In that scenario, Ichiro would probably have to reach out to them with a willingness to be a bench player if it comes down to it.